For the week ending 6 August 2005 / 1 Av 5765

Whats Really in a Name?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: We are expecting a child and there is the usual dilemma regarding the name we should give it. There is no disagreement between us as to whose side of the family will have the deceased members name perpetuated but there is a reluctance to inflict on our child the unusual name of a relative which will make it the laughing stock among friends. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: While there is no religious obligation to name a child after a relative it is customary to do so. It has been suggested that there is even a hint to this practice in the blessing which the Patriarch Yaakov gave to his grandchildren: "There shall be called in them my name and the name of my fathers."

If the name will cause problems, there is an option of finding a Hebrew translation of the name which is probably of European-Yiddish origin or a corruption thereof. Another option is to add a name to the unusual one by which your child will be called by his friends (although in some circles this is discouraged because it fails to really achieve perpetuation of the name).

Custom also encourages giving a name connected with the time of the year in which the baby is born or the portion of the Torah read that week.

In any event you should be congratulated for looking to tradition rather than consulting some book on baby names or picking one out of your hat.

Whatever name you decide to give, we wish you the greatest Yiddishe nachat from your expected child.

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